Google datacenters in Nevada to go full steam ahead with geothermal energy

Part of Mountain View's aim for carbon-free power by 2030

Google has signed a deal with NV Energy to help power its Nevada datacenters using geothermal energy under an arrangement the megacorp claims is more progressive than existing renewable energy contracts.

The Mountain View-based biz described the agreement as a "clean energy partnership" with NV Energy, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, claiming it would satisfy growing power demands cleanly and reliably.

This partnership builds on a geothermal pilot the search and cloud giant operated last year with startup Fervo Energy. That only delivered about 3.5 MW of energy, but proved Fervo's technology can deliver geothermal power at a commercial scale, Google says.

That has now been expanded to 115 MW of power that Fervo is able to supply to the local grid via NV Energy, albeit through an agreement that still needs to be approved by State regulators.

This agreement features what Google calls a Clean Transition Tariff (CTT). It claims this is the result of work with partners across the US to create a new, scalable pathway for utilities and large energy users to invest in clean energy capacity as an alternative to a power purchase agreement (PPA), as outlined on its blog.

Although Google pioneered PPAs, it now says these have their limitations, such as existing in isolation from broader grid planning and utility investment processes. The variability of the weather can also mean inconsistent solar and wind availability, and that fully decarbonizing electricity thus requires other technologies which can deliver clean power whenever it is needed, Google claims.

The proposed structure is pending review and approval by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, but Google reckons it will help move the company towards its ambition of running datacenters and office campuses entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030.

In a statement, NV Energy president and CEO Doug Cannon said the proposal would not be paid for by NV Energy's other customers, but would help ensure all customers benefit from cleaner, greener energy.

"If approved, it provides a blueprint for other utilities and large customers in Nevada to accelerate clean energy goals," he stated.

Meanwhile, it was reported this week that Google's cloudy rival, Amazon, has nixed plans to power datacenters using fuel cells in Oregon.

As reported by The Register last year, Amazon planned to switch some of its Oregon datacenters over to running from fuel cells, but powered by natural gas instead of green hydrogen. These were to serve as a primary energy supply, delivering 24.3 MW of power to each of three datacenter sites.

But local media OregonLive reported that Amazon has now quietly withdrawn a regulatory application regarding the fuel cells.

This may have had something to do with complaints from environmental campaigners, who said this would contribute to climate change and also make Amazon a major customer of the controversial Gas Transmission Northwest pipeline, which runs from British Columbia to California. ®

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